Welcome to IBBY SA's Newsletter Number 3 2015
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The clichéd opening line “It’s been a busy time” really tells the truth this time – as evidenced in the reports and photos that follow. Since the last newsletter we’ve had our 2015 AGM,  announced the IBBY SA Honour books for display at the IBBY congress in New Zealand next year, ran a stall at RASA’s  family literacy day, represented IBBY at the IFLA WLIC congress in Cape Town, and hosted  two  bookbash events. Our Winter bash focussed on Jean Williams and her work at Biblionef. Then we hosted a talk by visiting children’s poetry specialist and past president of USBBY, Sylvia Vardell, which led to our own workshop on South African children’s poetry.
By a lucky coincidence poetry is the theme of our key article by Robin Malan. He muses on the impact of the annual anthology of young writing English Alive on the future careers of its contributors. Robin gives us some fascinating anecdotes from his editorial work with young writers. He includes two soul -searing poems that are still with me as I write this.
I sent out my AGM annual report on our members’ emailing list. Good news is that we have had 24 new members join in 2015 and we have three new executive committee members, Theresa Denton, well-known public librarian, Zonke Silwanyana, isi-Xhosa specialist at EDULIS, and Samukelo Nombembe, a senior English teacher at Mayisile High School. We really hope that they will help us widen our gaze so that we might become more inclusive in our coverage of South African writing and publishing.  We also hope that they might help us extend our reach into schools. We have too little contact with teachers and other carers of young children. As Jean Williams proclaims in her report on her attendance at IFLA’s WLIC, “Every teacher should make space in their classroom for storybooks!”
Recent research from the University of Stellenbosch highlights the power of so-called dialogic reading in literacy and cognitive development. The claim that only 5% of South African parents read to their children highlights the crucial role of pre-school caregivers, teachers, and children’s librarians. HERE is more on that.

The newsletter has news from IBBY SA North - on the Katrine Harries medal and the IBBY Africa conference in Rwanda. 

Genevieve Hart

Do you all know about our Facebook page? Noni reports that it is very active with two to three posts a week and with 900 followers.

  1. RASA Family Literacy Day
  2. IBBY Honour List media release
  3. Katrine Harries awards 2009-2014.  Media release 
  4. Publishing early or not?  - Robin Malan
  5. Winter Book Bash: Conversation with Jean Williams – Janet Cronje
  6. News from IBBY Africa: Rwanda  Conference  – Thomas van der Walt
  7. IFLA WLIC Cape Town  - Jean Williams 
  8. Reviews

RASA held a 'Family and community literacy day' at the Baxter Theatre on September 5, inviting  teachers, children, parents, caregivers, librarians, and anyone who loves stories, to join them for a day exploring 'Reading & writing as pleasure & play'.  And IBBY SA was there to join in this 'celebration of experiences, of creativity and ideas'.

IBBY SA's stall at RASA, with Genevieve Hart,
Samukelo Nombembe,and Robin Malan

IBBY Honour List of Books 2015-16

 IBBY SA is pleased to announce that the following books have been selected for the IBBY Honour List to be presented at the IBBY World Congress in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2016 as having made a special contribution to recent South African literature for children and young people:
Author: Afrikaans
Fanie Viljoen: Uit (LAPA Uitgewers, Pretoria) – for making it easy for all teenagers to experience and emphathise with a young man’s growing realisation of his sexual orientation

Author: English 
Charmaine Kendal: Miscast (Junkets Publisher, Cape Town) – for its sensitive exploration of the inner journey of a trans boy; probably the first South African teen novel about transgender

Translator: into Afrikaans
Kobus Geldenhuys:  Hoe om jou draak te tem (Protea Boekhuis, Stellenbosch) translated from Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon – for capturing the spirit and sense of the fantastical in his translation

Translator: into isiXhosa 
Sindiwe Magona:  Iintsomi zase-Afrika (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg) translated from Gcina Mhlophe’s Stories of Africa – for transmitting the magic of the original folktales so faithfully

Translator: into seSotho
Selloane Khosi: Baile le Moketa (Jacana Media, Johannesburg), translated from Gerard Sekoto’s Shorty and Billy Boy– for a clear and lively version of the 1973 story of Sekoto’s, only recently published for the first time

Dale Blankenaar: Olinosters op die dak / Rhinocephants on the roof by Marita van der Vyver (NB Publishers, Cape Town) – for his rendering of the eerily atmospheric world of the writing.           
The above announcements were made at an event hosted by IBBY SA at the SASNEV building in Pinelands, Cape Town, on Thursday 17 September 2015.


The announcements were made by LonaGericke, former children’s librarian, former chair and vice-chair of IBBY SA, and a former member of the international Hans Christian Andersen Award Jury. She holds the Awards portfolio on the Executive Committee of IBBY SA.  Five of the six people nominated were able to attend the event and receive their IBBY SA certificates in person. Likewise, five of the six publishers involved were the happy recipients of IBBY SA certificates.
‘We are really glad that the six categories were spread among six different publishers,’ said Lona Gericke. ‘It means that more and more publishers are doing excellent work in the field of literature for children and young people.’ ‘Isn’t it striking,’ comments Genevieve Hart, ‘that the two ‘Author’-category nominees have both written books about sexual diversity? It is a very significant area of teenager experience, and we welcome such careful and sensitive treatments.’
What lies ahead for these six books? Copies have been despatched to the head office of IBBY in Basle, Switzerland. At next year’s IBBY World Congress they will be on display, will appear in the Honour List of Books brochure, and will be the subject of a screened presentation in a plenary session of the Congress, after which they will move on to be displayed at the famous Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
So, the recognition and the exposure for these writers, translators and illustrators could be very significant for their careers.
Genevieve Hart – Chairperson
Lona Gericke – Awards portfolio
Executive Committee IBBY SA

  The Katrine Harries Award for Children’s Book Illustrations: 2008-2014

The award winners are: Joan Rankin for Just Sisi (Human & Rousseau) for the period 2008 – 2009; Maja Sereda for Haasmoles (LAPA) for the period 2010 – 2011; and Johan Strauss for In die Land van Pamperlang (Human & Rousseau) for the period 2012 – 2013.
The Katrine Harries award is the oldest award in South Africa for illustrations in children’s picture books and the only one that awards the illustrations in children’s books as an art form. Only illustrators based in South Africa are considered for the award.
The illustrations in Just Sisi by Joan Rankin, the grande dame of South African children’s book illustrations, were described by the judges as well balanced, creating enough space to draw attention to the subject matter, and giving the reader some breathing space. “Light and airy and absolutely delightful!” She managed to tell a visual story with a high cultural content without mentioning race or colour.

                              Just Sisi - illustrations by Joan Rankin
Maja Sereda’s illustrations were commended for being refreshingly entertaining. Although there is a lot of activity and movement in each illustration, it never becomes forced and overbearing. With little detail an array of emotions is evoked and young readers will identify effortlessly with the characters. “Great fun!”
Johann Strauss’s illustrations are meticulously thought through and splendidly executed – each a masterpiece in its own right. His style is unique and fresh. His interpretation of elements of nature ensures a dreamlike quality. He has mastered his medium, making In die Land van Pamperlang “a fairytale brought to life”.

                      Johan Strauss for In die Land van Pamperlang
The Katrine Harries award, a nine carat gold medal, was created in the early 1960s by the SA Library Association and later taken over by the South African Institute for Library and Information Science (SAILIS). When SAILIS was disbanded, the new organisation, LIASA, was not interested in continuing with awards. Nicol Stassen, the owner of Protea Boekhuis, has sponsored the award from 1997. It was awarded the last time at the centenary of the University of Pretoria in 2008. A lack of resources and interest caused another six years to go by, but collaboration between the Department of Information Science at Unisa and IBBY SA North, has now again made it possible to continue with the award.
The judges were:
Prof. Molly Brown is the Head of the English Department at the University of Pretoria. Children's Literature is one of her key research interests and her PhD was on young adult fantasy. She has published in Journals such as The Lion and the Unicorn, Mousaion and Papers: Explorations into Children's Literature. Prof. Brown also runs an Honours course in Children's Literature and has established The Child and the Story as a Faculty Research Theme at the University of Pretoria.

                                         Maja Sereda for Haasmoles
Katinka Joubert is a graphic designer and illustrator at Onesanesoul and mother of a two year old boy. She helps out at various orphanages in Hammanskraal from where her passion for upliftment grew. Her dream is to cultivate art awareness amongst underprivileged children.
Thea Bester-Swanepoel also a graphic designer, specializes in book- and publishing design. She is currently employed by Unisa Press. As mother of two small boys, she is passionate about children’s books and dreams about establishing her own project on children’s book illustrations.
For more information contact
Prof Thomas van der Walt

 Thomas van Der Walt and Maritha Snyman must be congratulated on their work in reviving the Katrine Harries award – Genevieve Hart
Publishing young – or not?
Some reflections on editing English Alive 1967–2015
By Robin Malan

Think back to the second half of the 1960s. English Alive, the annual anthology of writing from high schools in southern Africa, was founded in 1967 – I was one of the founding editors. Think 1968, the next year. Think of the concerns we had then, from the Aldermaston March to Trafalgar Square to the Paris Spring uprisings to … St Stithian’s College, Randburg!
In the 1968 English Alive this poem was published:
Our garden
by I Malet-Warden (St Stithian’s College, Randburg)
'Our world is budding like a flower:
A big, black, bloody mushroom.'

What effect did having that poem published then have on I Malet-Warden? I don’t know. Have you ever heard of I Malet-Warden? I haven’t, not since then. And nor has Google. Certainly not as a now-established poet.
But I’ll tell you one effect of that poem. Five years ago I changed GPs, and the new doctor said he knew I was the Editor of English Alive, and he remembered that in 1968 there was this poem in English Alive … and he quoted verbatim I Malet-Warden’s two-line poem. So this medical doctor had carried that poem in his head for 42 years. That sounds like something of an achievement to me; one that (I would guess) I Malet-Warden is unaware of.
The general point I want to raise is this: It’s often said that being published young damages a writer. It exposes them to an audience prematurely, when they’re not ready or ripe for such exposure. On the other hand, those of us involved in English Alive (whether as publishers, compilers or teachers) know that being published young can have a positive effect on the writer. And being published young in English Alive can sometimes be the first step or steps in what becomes a career as a writer.
We’ve got a full-to-overflowing basket of names to offer as proof. At the event in April this year where I received the 2014 Gold Medal of the English Academy of Southern Africa, 14 professional published writers and professionally staged playwrights took part in a Festival Evening of Readings from their work; all of them were first published in English Alive when they were in high school. They were:

  • Michael King (St Andrew’s College) a published poet, an editor of English Alive, current Editor of New Contrast literary journal;
  • Andre Eva Bosch (Rob Ferreira High School) winner of the 2014 Sanlam Prize (Gold) for youth literature and winner of the MER Prize for youth literature;
  • Graeme Bloch (SACS) writer on education;
  •   obin Auld (Fish Hoek High School) singer-songwriter and published poet;
  • Shaun Johnson (Hyde Park High School) winner of the Commonwealth Prize and the M-Net Prize;
  • Mike Kantey (SACS) writer of children’s book, fiction writer;
  • Peter Anderson (Bishops) a published poet and compiler;
  • Justin Fox (SACS) writer of fiction and non-fiction;
  • Megan Hall (Westerford High School) an editor of English Alive, a published poet and winner of the Ingrid Jonker Prize;
  • Ken Barris, an editor of English Alive and prize-winning poet, short-story writer and novelist;
  • Karen Jeynes (Westerford High School) a prize-winning playwright and writer of teen novels;
  • Nicholas Spagnoletti (SACS) playwright and winner of the Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama
  • Duane Jethro (Plumstead High School) writer of teen novels;
  • Siphokazi Jonas (Queenstown Girls’ High School) writer of educational articles on Shakespeare in schools and women’s writing in South Africa.
There are others who could not make it to the event:
  • Helen Moffett (Hottentots-Holland High School) poet, editor and compiler;
  • Amy Jephta (Muizenberg High School) playwright and director;
  • Jeremy Gordin (Brakpan High School & Damelin College) Editor of the South African Playboy, CEO of Exclusive Books and biographer of Jacob Zuma;
  • Sarah Johnson (Rustenburg High School for Girls) published poet and an editor of English Alive;
  • Naphtali Mlipha (Waterford Kamhlaba United World College in Swaziland) former arts editor of New Nation newspaper;
  • Victor Dlamini (Waterford Kamhlaba) arts journalist and presenter of SAfm Literature programme.
Special mention needs to be made of David Lan (Westerford High School), author of a social anthropology textbook, playwright, Director of The Young Vic Theatre in London, a CBE in the Queen’s Honours List, and the Consultant Director of the planned Performing Arts Center, Ground Zero, World Trade Center, New York. He was published in English Alive in 1967-9.
That’s not the end of the list; but I’m not going to go through all the names. We often do that. In every annual edition of English Alive we offer what we call ‘News of Ex-English Alivers’, something of a catalogue of new writing achievements of writers who were first published young in English Alive. I just want to point to two – well, three, really. First is a young writer who appeared only once in English Alive, and then with only one poem; his name is Henk Rossouw (Milnerton High School). He went on to become quite an influential arts and literature journalist, with articles on Nadine Gordimer in Newsweek, for instance.


Then I lost track of him, he seemed to disappear entirely from the literary scene. Until recently, when I got an email from him, which contained a link to a video of Henk reading a poem in Times Square in New York. He’d won a national poem-writing competition, one outcome of which was to read the poem at an event held in Times Square. He was then a Master of Fine Arts student at the University of Massachusetts.
But there are more obvious examples of the kind of encouragement that being published young in English Alive can afford a young writer. I don’t need to quote anything by the Deputy Minister of Public Works and Deputy General-Secretary of the SA Communist Party Jeremy Cronin: he has an international reputation, based on the four volumes of his poems published between 1983 and 2006.


He was first published in 1967 in the very first edition of English Alive, when he was a student at St Joseph’s College, Rondebosch. From there, Jeremy studied at the University of Cape Town and the Sorbonne, taught in the Political Science Department at UCT, not (as far as I know) publishing any of his imaginative writing. Then, in 1976 he was arrested and convicted for ‘aiding and abetting a banned organisation’, the ANC. He spent seven years as a political prisoner in the Maximum Security prison in Pretoria. When he emerged in 1983 he easily found a publisher in Ravan Press, who brought out his quite sensational collection of poems, Inside. He seemed to have taken the time – ironically, I suppose, to have been given the time – to mature and grow as a person and as a poet.

Then there’s Henrietta Rose-Innes. She went to Westerford High School; and was published in English Alive in every one of her high school years, from 1985 to 1989. Then I don’t remember reading anything of hers while she was studying archaeology and biological anthropology at the University of Cape Town, except perhaps the occasional piece in one of the small literary magazines, until, in 2000, Kwela Books (under that most astute of publishers, Annari van der Merwe) published her first novel, Shark’s Egg; and, in 2004, her second novel The Rock Alphabet. Then Henrietta moved from novels to short stories, and went on to win the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing for 2008 and published her collection of short stories, Homing. In 2011 her major novel Nineveh was published and shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the M-Net Prize. Now, in 2015, her next major novel The Green Lion has been published, to acclaim. She has just been awarded a special three-year scholarship grant to do her Doctorate at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.


When Henrietta spoke at an English Alive launch a few years back, she brought with her her copies of English Alive from her school years, and she very clearly made the point that being published in English Alive had been of real and deep significance in her life as a writer.
So, there’s the effect of the encouragement that early publishing can have for a young writer. I suppose it’s possible to pose the question: If she hadn’t been published in English Alive for those five years, would she have gone on to become a professional writer? Stupid question, really, because it can’t have an answer other than ‘Who knows?’
Now I want to raise two other examples: one, someone I didn’t know at all at the time; the other, someone I knew extremely well. First, here’s a poem from the 1968 English Alive:
Magnolia Clinic
by Nigel V Fogg (St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown)
[English Alive 1968 p. 15]
On entering
I threw my false voice at you
and yours came back
across the sterilised distance.
Smothered in a world of white
you were connected
by a long plastic tube
to a hole in the wall
labelled ‘Life’.
There were the usual questions
and your usual lies
and while mother continued
I turned to face the sets of eyes
watching the Englishman's son.
I greeted them: ‘Hullo’
which was neither here nor there.
Through the window
there was a tree with leaves
and a bird,
and though late
traces of a long sun
unretreated among the park.
One day father
I suppose I shall turn
from the window
and find you withdrawn
into your hole in the wall
and turn again
to discover the bird gone
and the sun retreated
and mother and I shall leave
between shadow and shade
(In the original version published in the 1968 English Alive, fashionably, the title appeared as ‘magnolia clinic’, the writer’s name as ‘nigel v fogg’, and there were no punctuation marks or upper-case initial letters in the poem. Later, the author asked me to publish the poem more conventionally and to omit the ‘V’ in his name.) I included this poem in my anthologies Inscapes, New Inscapes and Worldscapes; it has been a Grade 12 prescribed poem in a number of different years; and almost regularly pops up in English Literature examination papers.

There were other ‘nigel v fogg’ poems published in the early volumes of English Alive: clever, superior, sophisticated, even quite snooty pieces of work, none of them quite matching the superb, moving simplicity of ‘Magnolia Clinic’. After he left school there were years when I heard nothing of Nigel Fogg. I then came to meet him, only once, in bizarre circumstances. I was asked by David Philip, then the Editorial Manager of Oxford University Press, to read and review an ‘autobiography in verse’ by a young poet who had delivered it to OUP in a bound volume and a shirt box of loose leaves. When I got home and undid the parcel I found it was by ‘nigel v fogg’. Fascinated, I dived into it. I wrote a review for David Philip in which I acknowledged the polish and skill of the young poet, but said that OUP should be cautious about publishing it because no one was likely to buy it or, if they did, was likely to read beyond the first few pages. It was the adolescent angst of a very clever young man.

End of story. Not quite …. Some months later, I got a letter from Nigel Fogg, telling me he had submitted a manuscript of his to a publisher and had received a negative reaction from their reader, which he could not understand or accept, and would I please read the manuscript and tell him what it was really like? How to get out of that one, Malan? In the end I decided there was nothing else to do but be totally honest, and so I wrote back to tell him that I was that reader, and that I’d love to meet him and talk about his work. And so, one afternoon, he came to my flat – the only time we’ve met. He wasn’t all that keen to talk about his poetry; rather, he was more interested to tell me that he’d bought a beaten-up old Combi and was about to hit the road to travel around South Africa, making leather sandals – quite the career of choice in those (hippyish) years. And so, Nigel V Fogg disappeared in the dust of a criss-cross of gravel roads, the loose leaves of his novel in verse scattering over the South African veld behind him. He never published again.
But his-and-my story is not quite finished. A few years ago I discovered from a friend that a friend of hers and mine from the old Space Theatre days was living in France, married to Nigel Fogg, and they were earning their living making professional photographers’ camera bags (very beautiful ones – they sent me one).


And then, suddenly, Nigel sent me a poem he had written – after all these years. I thought it was a very good poem and asked him if I could pitch it to two of the little magazines. He agreed. Each of them in turn accepted it; each in turn somehow never got round to publishing it; until, angered, Nigel withdrew it and it did not get published at that time. A version of it eventually appeared in a literary magazine. So what was the effect of his early experience of being published – perhaps too early? When you look at ‘Magnolia Clinic’, you can’t say that. That poem had to be written at that time. And it had to be published at that time.
Someone I knew much better was Charles Rom. He was a student at Cape Town High School, where I taught. I once gave the Std 9 class one of those assignments that infuriate most students: ‘Write anything, about anything, in any form, of any length.’ Charles’s assignment was late; I nagged; at the end of an English period he pushed his book across the table at me, and mumbled, ‘You’d better read this – it’s no good.’ This is what I read:
How shall I tell?
by Charles Rom (Cape Town High School)
[English Alive 1967 p. 52]
How shall I tell of a confounded youth who saw not youth but a thousand monsters of another time – the septic sores of a too‑strange world – with eyes un-widened to his fellows’ joy; who built towers to the sky, which crashed at the touch of a steel‑cold thought; who saw not beauty where other men walked, but the dull blankness of their animal minds; who saw too much of that which was real, and could not live with what he saw?

How shall I tell of a fragrant youth who slept wrapt ’tween mountain and sea on a soft pillow of the sweetest grass, with the stars all above him and a girl by his side who smelled of the early morning and whose hair was as light as a silken cloud and whose breath was warm on his cheek? And of how, with time‑greased hands, he reached out to hold the night forever – and found that it was gone?

How shall I tell of a thousand thoughts which bubbled and fumed in his pent mind with no outlet to anything other than a world of fantasy where none could go save he? And who shall
know of loneliness as he who knew a thousand men?

How shall I tell of a child who wished never to be a man; who feared the passing of childhood as the murderer fears the rope; who would have no part of growing old with nothing to clutch – whether it be Christ or a teddy-bear; who was too clever to believe in God and too foolish to believe in himself?

How shall I tell of a choking joy which lifted him up to walk on the clouds; which ballooned his soul and possessed his mind; which had nor face nor reason; which soon grew thin and faded away, for there was none with whom it might be shared?

How shall I tell of all these things? How shall I capture thoughts which race and fly too fast for any pen to frame? And who shall know of foolishness and love and hate and tears?

How then shall I tell of me?
I told Charles I couldn’t ‘mark’ that piece in any conventional way, and so I’d had, rather feebly, to fall back on giving it 50 out of 50, something I’d never done before. That piece was published in the school magazine, then in English Alive, then in a national magazine, and has appeared in several other books over the years. Michael King included it in his collection English Alive 1967 to 1987, marking the 20th anniversary of English Alive, and it will certainly be in my anthology to be published to mark the 50th year of English Alive in 2017.
Immediately after that piece and my reception of it, the floodgates opened. Virtually every day Charles brought me piece after piece, poem after poem. And virtually every one of them was exceptional: a short story ‘Cabbages and Kings’, a poem called ‘Cathedral’ … He was writing like an angel. English Alive published a number of these pieces of his; and I put three of the poems into my anthology Inscapes in 1969. He wrote a few further pieces while he was studying and working on a kibbutz in Israel, but nothing since. Or at least nothing that he’s let me see. He’s ended up spending his life very happily being a plant and flower nurseryman, first in the sandy wastes of Zeekoevlei and now out at Klein Dassenberg. Five years ago he came to my At Home celebration for my 70th birthday; the last time I saw him when he came to town he brought a large jar of a delicious marmalade he’d made.
So, I ask the questions: What is it in the human imagination (or is it the human psyche?) that causes these kinds of ‘eruptions’ of quite superb quality at this early-adult stage? What is it in the life-patterns of these young writers that causes some of them to become professional writers, and others of them to find their métier in some quite unrelated field of achievement?
Was being published young good or bad for Nigel and Charles? I dunno. Why did Jeremy and Henrietta become professional writers and Nigel and Charles did not? I dunno.
And, in the end, does it matter? The work was done, the piece was produced, it exists, and it found an audience by being published. Who knows, perhaps in 42 years’ time some medical man will remember it, even be able to quote from it.
© Robin Malan, 2010, 2015
First delivered as an address at the Annual General Meeting of the Western Cape branch of the South African Council for English Education (SACEE) in 2010; updated and expanded in 2015.

Robin Malan
3rd IBBY Africa Conference: Kigali, 24-25 September

The 3rd IBBY-Africa Conference took place on 24 and 25 September in Kigali, Rwanda. The conference was organised by Peter and Agnes Gyr of Bakame Publishers in Kigali, which celebrates their 20th anniversary this year. Bakame Publishers also acts as the IBBY Rwanda office.


There were 70 participants and ten countries were represented: Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, Namibia, Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and the USA. Six of the nine IBBY African branches were represented. Nobody from Zambia could attend, and experience taught that the Northern African branches, Egypt and Tunisia, prefer to take part in the activities of the Arab-speaking branches. The discussions and papers read were done in English, French and Kinyarwanda, with simultaneous interpretation in the other languages. During the conference 150 IBBY Honour list books were exhibited as well as picture books recommended by BIB – the Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava.

In addition to country reports by IBBY Africa sections (there were reports from Rwanda; Uganda; Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana and Namibia’s Children’s Book Forum), two main issues were addressed during the conference: the promotion of a book and reading culture in Africa and the future of IBBY in Africa and the role that it should play.

A few papers were presented on promotion of reading, and one of the interesting ones dealt with the use of folklore and indigenous stories in promoting literacy and preserving culture. One of the examples discussed to keep traditional stories alive while simultaneously promoting literacy, was books that are  written and drawn by children themselves. The author circulated several examples of such handmade “books” that gave children opportunities to share their indigenous stories told by their parents – and in the process a reading culture and writing skills among children are promoted..

However, the paper that elicited the most discussion was one on the acquisition of language and literacy in the first or second language. Bakame Editions showed that, in the case of their books that were published in Kinyarwanda, English and French, the sales of the Kinyarwanda version were double that of both the other versions. The speaker indicated that in Rwanda, when the mother tongue was used as a medium of instruction, a high number of parents were able to help their children doing their homework. In addition to the well-known argument that children who learned to read in their mother-tongue in the first three years of schooling, later find it easier to read in another language. An argument used in Rwanda for mother tongue education is that children taught in their mother tongue at an early age have a better chance of acquiring “appropriate” cultural and moral behaviour!


Two striking aspects of the conference were the lively discussions and the large number of younger people that actively participated in these discussions. Publishers, authors, illustrators, teachers and a number of journalists and people involved in reading related activities discussed experiences and viewpoints on how to efficiently promote reading among children and young people. Unfortunately many of the issues raised and solutions offered by participants were the same as those that one hears one conference after the other: literature for children and youth in Africa has not yet developed significantly; more awareness campaigns, especially among parents and educators are necessary; people should be made aware of the important role of reading in the educational process of the child; the promotion of mother tongue should start within families. Participants also denounced the misconception of some parents who neglect their mother tongue in favour of foreign languages, thinking that their children would be considered more “civilized” when they are able to express themselves in foreign languages.

Not many success stories were heard. One of the few was from Malusi Ntoyapi, Programme Coordinator of South Africa’s  PRAESA. Her presentation had the title “What does reading promotion mean or what do we understand by reading promotion”. There was overall acclaim for the important work PRAESA is doing in South Africa.


Two plenary sessions were devoted to a general discussion of the future role of IBBY in promoting the reading culture in Africa.

* One discussion point that stood out was the fact that IBBY Africa sections should attract young people to take part in their projects. The young Rwandese young people felt very strongly about the fact that, in spite of them being the future of IBBY Africa sections, young people are not represented and their voices not heard. Children and young people should be given opportunities to participate actively in activities, projects and books produced for them.

* The fact that the culture of volunteering does not exist in Africa was deplored.

* IBBY sections should try to get policy makers involved in their projects or at least raise awareness of their activities among policy makers, related organisations, the youth etc.

* IBBY sections have to engage the media in their activities. There should be much more exposure of what IBBY sections are doing among the authorities, people in education, parents and organisations  working towards the same goal of promoting literacy among young people. Every section should have a strategic plan of how to reach these concerned people.

* There is a need for more collaboration and networking among other IBBY sections.  The website that Niki Daly of South Africa started for IBBY Africa but which was not supported should be revived and sections should contribute on a regular basis.

* The issue of a lack of money was of course raised again but participants agreed that it should not be the main issue. People have to be committed first and ready to take responsibilities. Lack of money should not be seen as preventing IBBY Africa sections from accomplishing their vision of serving children and young people. The problem should rather be seen as a lack of good will, the lack of a culture of volunteerism and of working together as one team.

In spite of negative aspects, especially the repetition of the same old problems and few new solutions, there were positive signs: the fact that more than seventy delegates took part in the conference; the participation of many young people; the fact that six of the nine IBBY Africa sections were represented and that two sections applied to host the next conference. After a discussion, the delegates decided to accept the invitation of the Uganda section. The next IBBY Africa conference will take place in Kampala in 2017.

Thomas van der Walt
23 October 2015

IBBY SA’s Winter Bookbash
What a treat to be a perfectly “legitimate” eavesdropper on a personal conversation with Biblionef stalwart, Jean Williams at IBBY SA’s AGM, held on 6 August. Current chairperson, Genevieve Hart, chatted to Jean after the formal AGM proceedings, (not at all as boring and tedious as so many AGMs can be) had been concluded.

It was really interesting to hear some of Jean’s professional and personal life history and anecdotes. One of ten children, Jean grew up in Retreat, in a family that loved reading and books. She told how she and her siblings had to “hide” books to make sure that they each had something to read at bedtime. This, until they discovered the local library!
Jean attended Delta Primary in Retreat and her early love of reading was nurtured by her “very good teachers”. Post-matric, she was the first in her family to attend university and studied at UWC, where she qualified as a librarian. Jean’s first job was at Elsies River Public Library, followed by two ten year stints at both Grassy Park and Ocean View Public Libraries. She is most proud of her time at Ocean View, where she got people to think differently about libraries and used creative strategies to get people who couldn’t read into the library. Jean emphasized the use of toys and games to get reluctant readers into the library.

Her transition from public librarian to Biblionef began with a request to sit on the Biblionef board. She liked the idea because she had teenage children at home and thought that this position would offer her more free time. Before long, though, Jean was Executive Director of Biblionef, where she has now been for 17 years. Obviously still passionate about her work, Jean told us how “no place is too far for Biblionef to reach” and how she managed to launch the well-known book, Brenda has a dragon in her blood in remote KZN (Kwa Vuma) with the help of her “good admin team” and a fly-in medical service flight to the area.
In her years at Biblionef, Jean has built a formidable catalogue of locally written and published storybooks for South African children. It is due to Jean’s efforts and stamina that local publishers now also see the necessity and importance of translating books into African languages.
Jean’s tip to getting more children reading in schools is to find one positive, motivated person in the school to lead and champion the reading project. In closing she mentioned the importance of local literacy and related organizations to network with one another and possibly set up a literacy forum to engage with the work happening in the sector.


With 300,000 books in storage still waiting to find happy homes in the hands of young children, retirement is still some way off for Jean Williams.
Viva Biblionef and Viva Jean!
Janet Cronje
Poems for All People
About 20 IBBY SA members and other interested people gathered to meet and listen to Poems for All People, presented by Sylvia Vardell, a former Editor of IBBY’s Bookbird and past president of USBBY.


We were a very good audience for her: writers, poets, librarians, teachers, literature activists. Biblionef staff were also much in evidence, as this was a joint Biblionef SA and IBBY SA event. So there was no doubt that Sylvia was talking to the right people!  Her special interest is poems for children and young people; indeed, that’s her job, teaching teachers and librarians how to handle poems with children.


She gave us a sampling of anthologies – including her own – which were all good to look at and promised a fuller pleasure in acquiring and reading some of them.

It made one wonder if our poets are doing enough in this area. Peter Clarke had some wonderful poems for children, as does Gus Ferguson, but it would be good if more poets saw the value in producing work for children that is neither prissy nor moralising.
Thanks to Jean Williams for putting this together – and for her usual energetic peddling of the latest Biblionef SA books, all wonderful, especially the re-issue of Hugh Lewin’s Jafta books.
Robin Malan
IFLA World Library and Information Congress Cape Town
15-21 August: report from Jean Williams

I am very thankful to IBBY for giving me the opportunity to attend the recent IFLA congress in Cape Town as their representative. Cape Town did us proud - especially with the smart conference venue and the opening ceremony where Gcina Mhlope told the African Story in a touching and colourful way. I attended two IFLA Standing Committee meetings of the section Libraries for Children and Young Adults, which was celebrating its 60th anniversary.  

The meetings opened my eyes to the commitment of IFLA members and their hard work in updating and rewriting IFLA’s Guidelines for Children’s Library Services. IBBY SA’s Jay Heale was on the Section’s conference programme with a paper entitled “Yesterday into tomorrow”. It was an eye opener I think to many on the exciting progress that South African literature for young readers has made in the last 20 years.  The programme included a workshop in which groups were asked to put forward ideas for the new Guidelines for Libraries for Children and Young Adults.  I enjoyed the discussions and was happy to add my input. It was at this session that Viviana Quinones introduced me as the international IBBY representative. She also called on me to make an announcement of IBBY's 2016 conference in New Zealand.


                           Jean Williams, Jay Heale & Genevieve Hart at IFLA's WLIC 2015
                                                    (Viviana Quinones in background!)

In the week of the congress I also met up with members of other IBBY national sections like Ingrid Källström, board member of IBBY Sweden. Sylvia Vardell, past president of USBBY, came to Pinelands to speak to IBBY SA members on sharing poetry with children. Her talk has inspired me to set up a poetry interest group within IBBY SA and on 23 September I hosted a workshop at Biblionef to explore the shortage of children’s poetry in our African languages.

A few of the things that I learned at the IFLA congress:
  • We need to make books possible for all, everywhere!
  • 50% of youth with substance abuse problems have reading problems.
  • Every teacher should make space in their classroom for storybooks.
  • We must support IFLA’s LYON Campaign for Reading Aloud. Our countries must sign up for "reading aloud' to be part of UNESCO's draft cultural statement.


Granite by Jenny Robson. 2015.  Cape Town: Tafelberg               

Jenny Robson’s new novel for young teenagers goes back to 15th century Zimba Remabwe, known now as Great Zimbabwe. Historians are unsure what led to the demise of the ancient city, a rich trading and mining centre; and the book gives us an intriguing if shocking explanation.  The story has two voices:  Mokomba’s , a timid boy from a noble family of stone cutters, and Shaifiq’s, a literate and well-travelled Egyptian trader. Their two retrospective chronicles record the hazards of a journey to the “land of the Milk people” or, as Shafiq calls it, the “land of the crusaders”  - on foot to the west coast then by slave-oared boat.  The journey has disastrous consequences.  


Jenny Robson is a good writer. She skilfully conveys the different perspectives of her two narrators with the older worldly-wise voice serving to fill in the gaps.  But her book does not quite fulfil its potential as an adventure story.  The device of the two backward – looking accounts restricts its power.   I wish the author could have been given more room to tell of Mokombas’s huge inner and outer journey.  And a novel of I34 pages can’t possibly do justice to the social issues Robson deals with - like despotism, slavery, the crusades, torture.  If only South African children and teenagers could have the luxury of big thick books to get lost in!

Another query relates to the book’s historical underpinnings.  A historical novel written for adults would usually give its sources and point to the liberties and speculations that fiction allows.   A teen novel has as much need of these acknolwledgentbs efehgts.    
Genevieve Hart
31 August 2015      

‘n Potpourri van nuwe Afrikaanse kinder en jeugboeke:
Jacobs, Jaco: Zackie Mostert en die katkrisis( LAPA, 2015)
Hierdie is die elfde titel in ‘n baie gewilde reeks. Zackie en Vincent kry die twyfelagtige voorreg om die buurvrou, Mevrou Langenhoven se kat vir drie dae op te pas. Katinka is nie ‘n gewone kat nie- sy sal heel moontlik groot kopsere veroorsaak. Die seuns hoop dat hulle met hul beloning die nuwe Squekky  Squirrrel Wars VI speletjie kan bekostig! Die enigste oplossing is om haar baie blikkies tuna te voer. Vincent begin om foto’s van haar te neem, en dit word ‘n lekker speletjie met ‘n blog en videos wat baie aanhangers kry.

Jacobs skryf met sy gebruiklike raak aanvoeling vir ‘n teks en situasies wat jong lesers sal geniet; sy humorsin en energieke styl maak dit ‘n genot om die boek te lees.


Jacobs, Jaco: Zackie Mostert en die vreeslike verjaarsdag( LAPA, 2015)

In die twaalfde titel word Zackie se idee om vir Vincent ‘n verassings-verjaarsdagpartytjie te reël ‘n kompetisie met Anton wat sy partytjie op dieselfde Saterdagoggend  beplan en telkens probeer om meer lekker dinge as trekpleister te gebruik en so Zackie se verassing te dwarsboom. Maar ‘n seun met ondernemingsgees maak altyd weer ‘n plan!


Beyers-Boshoff, C.F. : Jasper op hoërskool( PROTEA, 2015)

Hierdie is die tweede uitgawe  van ‘n titel  in 1959 verskyn het in die bekende reeks.
Interessant was dit om te lees hoe ‘n skrywer in die vyftiger jare ‘n skoolstorie vir seuns sou skryf.   Leliesvlei is ‘n klein dorpie met onderwysers wat nog met ‘n rottang slae uitdeel waar nodig; ‘n seun se “portret”in ‘n jaarboek verskyn; bendes kleilat-oorloë voer; hul jagtoerusting bestaan uit ‘n knipmes, ‘n rekker en ronde rivierklippies; die wengeld vir ‘n seepkis-kompetisie R50 is en die seepkis om die karretjie te maak vir vyf sent by die winkel gekoop is.   ‘n Brief word nog op ‘n tikmasjien geskryf ; seuns van bendes deel pamflette uit vir die dominee se kerkbasaar; en die dapper seuns red ‘n vierjarige seun wat verdwaal het; hulle prober vir die eerste keer rook en steek ‘n rietbos aan die brand met ‘n stompie; en dan vang hulle nog ‘n skaapdief en sien kans vir Lelievlei se spookhuis.

Ek sal dit geniet om kinders se reaksies op die boek te hoor! Onskuldige vermaak wat ‘n mens laat verlang na kinderjare in die tyd – toe jy nog versigtig was om perskes te steel by Oom Faan wie vertel dat hy sy perskes vergif het om kwaaijongens af te skrik of om die dominee of onderwysers sonder respek te behandel!

Neser, Christien: Middernagklub( LAPA, 2015)

Elle en haar vriendinne bring nog ‘n tiener-avontuur na hul lesers in die sewende titel in ‘n reeks wat met Kondensmelk afgeskop het en steeds bekoor.

Hier is die Lys van Dertig- volgende jaar se prefekte – ‘n doelwit wat vir die meisies beteken dat hulle geen reëls mag oortree nie. En sommer met die intrapslag word hul Middernagklub op heterdaad betrap! Maar die twee meisies Maria en Thandeka wat so deel van hul lewe word –hulle is van die kinderhuis Kaya Kumba en die meisies moet hul help om Graad Elf se werk te hersien- bring ‘n nuwe vriendskap en selfs kontak met ‘n ou Gravitas dame Stella Maas wat nou ‘n modeontwerper in New York is. 

Die skoolhoof se verjaarsdagviering word ‘n groot plesierige geleentheid, en die dertig leiers wat ‘n verpligte kamp by Thaba Thula aangebied deur Staal en Yster en die gemaskerde Russiese instrukteur Kalashnikoff moet bywoon, ervaar meer as net opleiding en ‘n heerlike verassing vir Elle. Is enige van die vriendinne dalk skoolleiers volgende jaar?

Neser hanteer hierdie verhaal met haar gebruiklike vaardigheid; ‘n goeie balans van jeugdige vermaak , oortuigende karakteruitbeelding en ‘n verhaal wat ontplooi tot ‘n einde wat die lesers sal laat uitsien na Elle en haar vriendinne se avonture in Graad 12! Lekker ligte leesstof.  

Baggot, Stella: Protea se plakpoppies modeontwerper trouversameling( PROTEA, 2015) In Afrikaans vertaal deur Rentia Bartlett-Möhl.

Jong meisies het hier die geleentheid om modeontwerper te speel met ‘n pragtige versameling van  ontwerpe, kleure en patrone, plakkers  en poppe wat gereed staan om aangetrekte word vir verskillende troues en sprokiesbruide.

Hierdie is ‘n wenner-geskenk idee vir meisies wat sou belang stel om kreatief modeontwerpers te “speel”. ‘n Boek wat dadelik die aandag trek en tematies ‘n groot mark kan bereik.

Baggot, Stella: Protea se Plakpoppies Modes van lank gelede( PROTEA, 2015) Vertaler Rentia Bartlett-Möhl.

Plakkerblaaie bevat die modes van o.a.Antieke Egipte, Rome, Sjina; die Middeleeue; Frankryk, Engeland(1810),  Victoriaanse tye ; Amerika in die 1950’s en Londen in die 1960’s.

Hoe lekker sal kinders nie die mooi poppe kan aantrek nie! Terselfdertyd vind daar ‘n leerproses plaas.Ek onthou hoe daar dikwels in biblioteke gevra word na die tradisionele drag van ‘n spesifieke tydperk; en hierdie boek is weereens ‘n bewys dat nie-fiksie nie noodwendig  nie-plesier beteken nie! Baie inspirerend.

Reeks:  Leer ken Woorde, Getalle  en Diere( H&R, 2015) Ook beskikbaar in Engels.

‘n Reeks van kleurvolle aantreklike hardeband boeke ‘n groot formaat stel kinders bekend aan woorde in verskeie situasies –‘n leerproses wat prettig kan wees, Die illustrasies is van werklike items en nie tekeninge nie. ‘n Tuinslang is ‘n tuinslang, ‘n erdwurm die werklike een, ;n hark en spinnekop en leunstoel werklik en in mooi kleure voorgestel.

In die getalle-boek leer die kind getalle met interaktiewe vrae en eenvoudige speletjies; groepering, vorms , patrone en sekwensies. 

Die  diere-boek bevat o.a. troeteldiere, plaasdiere, reusediere, skubdiere, babadiere, diere se huise , wegkruipers en diere in aksie.

Die groot format sal dit ook maklik maak vir kinders om saam deur die boek te kyk,of met ouers ‘n leersame leeservaring prettig te beleef.  Hoogs aanbeveel vir skool, tuis en biblioteekversamelings.

Daly, Nike en Jude: Baie dankie, Jackson( Jacana, 2015)Vertaal deur Alet Kruger.

Die eenvoudige treffende verhaal van ‘n boer, sy vrou Beauty en hul seun Goodwill. Hul donkie Kackson moes elke markdag ‘n vrag groente teen die bult uitdra en hy het nooit gekla of gerus in die taak nie. Een oggend verseg hy egter om verder te loop om so’n ondankbare taak te vervul. Die boer dreig om die donkie met ‘n groot stok te slaan as hy nie opstaan nie. Goodwill kom tot sy redding deur iets in die donkie se oor te fluister.

So leer die boer dat dit belangrik is om asseblief en dankie te sê. Klein dingetjies maak ‘n groot verskil in verhoudinge en gesindhede.

Jude Daly slaag daarin om met haar gebruiklike eevoudige manier van illustreer die storie te dra tot iets besonder mooi en kosbaar. Haar landskap is ontneem van detail en “clutter”; plante staan in netjiese rye; die heuwel se steilte word ge-aksensueer met die groot oop ruimtes waarin slegs ln man en sy donkie die kaal landskap vul. Veral bly die donkie se passiewe gesit jou bly wanneer die boer een twee en drie tel. Daar is reeds ‘n afstand tussen die twee en die vrou en kind wat agterbly, maar die seun Goodwill pak die bult dapper aan, oortuig da thy die sleutel dra tot die donkie se uiteindelike bereidwilligheid om verder te loop.

Die marktoneel is kleurvol en die verkopers en hul ware word netjies en noukeurig uitgestal.In die laaste twee illustrsies is daar ‘n glimlag om elke gesig; nog steeds uiters subtiel en fyn soos net Jude kan illustreer.

‘n Besonder kunstige werk; die storie hou ‘n les in vir elkeen van ons; die illustrasies verbeeld ‘n liefde vir die eenvoud van ‘n spesifieke Afrika-landskap.  

Lona Gericke


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